Hockey Freezes Out the Competition
Gliding across the thick sheet of ice as if suspended in the air, an Atholton Raider slides past his fellow teammates and slams the puck into the net to score a point during a scrimmage.
Every two weeks the members of the Atholton Ice Hockey Team gather at the Columbia Ice Rink to practice their team skills. The team, holding a record of 4-0 in county and 5-0 over all, operates under the sponsorship of Atholton dance teacher Ms. Haffey. On the ice however, the team is coached by Bud Michels, the father of Zach Michels, one of the players on the team. This year the team is anticipating a successful season.
“We have a depth in our bench for the first time in years,” said Coach Michels. “We have set our primary goal to win the Howard County Cup which is the Howard County Conference Championship. We will then take the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Championship. It sounds like we have set the bar real high but why have goals if your intent is to be average? Our team is cohesive and if you ask any Raider hockey player, he will tell you that our goal is to win the Howard County Cup and we are all working hard to get there. All of us.”
The team, which has been active for years, is generally unheard of by the student body. Most sports that that have large student attendance are official school sports. The hockey team however, is technically considered a club.
“I’ve been going here for four years and I’ve never even heard of the team,” said Senior KC Hersey. Hersey is not the only one to experience this phenomenon. In fact, the majority of the school is unaware that the team even exists. This does not bother the team though; they play hockey because it is what they love to do.
“I’ve been playing hockey since I was three,” said Senior and team member Shane Avery Sheperd. “It never stops, you just keep going.” Some might think the school does not more actively promote the team because hockey is oftentimes pegged as a violent and unruly sport. However, the game is kept clean and healthy by the strict rules that are implemented.
“The rules of hockey are very clear: no fighting. If they do they are suspended,” said Team Manager Julie Potter, mother of Team Captain Brandon Potter. “All the players know this and if there is tension they walk away. Checking is allowed in high school hockey as it is in the local travel teams but the players have an unspoken respect for each other so that there are not injuries.”
Not only is the game safe for all players, it also serves as a constructive and beneficial experience for the players. The league participation has led to strong bonds between players on both the same team and on other teams.
“The more skilled players work with the less skilled players which is wonderful to watch,” said Potter. “Most of the players are friends because of the game of hockey, so it’s enjoyable for them to play with each other and friends on the opposing teams. Hockey is like a family sport.”
One of the most important aspects of high school hockey is making sure the players are learning and improving. Most club leagues are very competitive; high school hockey has a much greater emphasis on inclusion and enjoyment. The Raiders have had great success in this area.
“Usually a team will have four lines of forwards and three lines of defense,” said Team Captain Brandon Potter. “For high school though, it’s usually about two lines. So we have a really big team and we’ve managed to include each line in every game and we’ve come out with big scores.”
In an exhibition match occurring before the official season had begun, Atholton beat Arundel High School 12-2. The Raiders went on to play the River Hill Hawks on November 14 at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, winning 7-2. The team has made a great start and its prospects for the future look just as bright.
“We should do pretty well. It’s pretty much county champs or bust for us. We’ve already looked at the other teams and we feel that we should do really well against them,” said Team Captain Nick Bogdash.The next game will be on Friday, January 6, at the Laurel Ice Gardens, with the Raiders squaring off against the Marriotts Ridge Mustangs.
“Although our games are free and we’ve been producing winning records the last three years, we seem to have a lot less fans than our competition. Come out and see us win!” said Coach Michels.
With such a solid roster and powerful determination, the Atholton Ice Hockey Team is sure to go far in this year’s season.